Vienna: The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), an wildlife and environment conservation organisation, announced on Monday an initiative to recycle used cellphones and use the proceeds to finance conservation projects in Africa.
The JGI plans to encourage cellphone users to recycle their old devices on a given day each year – the first day is February 26 – and to use the proceeds to fund conservation efforts for chimpanzees, which are directly affected by the cellphone industry.
The JGI examined the links between large-scale mining of raw materials like coltan (columbite-tantalum) in the Congo Basin, an industrial activity that encroached upon the natural habitat of chimpanzees.
Coltan, used to coat capacitors inside the hand-held gadgets, is found in huge quantities in the Congo Basin, home to the critically-endangered gorilla as well as chimpanzees.
The funds obtained through the initiative will be used to purchase education materials, food and medicines for African children; chimpanzees, gorillas and for reforestation and seeding projects.
According to the United Nations, in the past five years, the eastern lowland gorilla population in the Congo region has shrunk 90 per cent. Many of the animals has fallen victim to rebel groups illicitly mining the natural resource in the region.
On its website, mobilerecyclingday.org, the JGI includes links detailing cellphone recycling programmes in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States. It also provides information on how to become a Jane Goodall Institute Chimp guardian member.
According to the JGI estimates, Spain alone there are around 50 million active mobile phones. While millions of obsolete devices are discarded or stashed away every year, the average recycling rate is below 10 per cent.
By recovering coltan, cassiterite and other rare minerals from discarded phones, the JGI feels it can lower future ore-extraction.
Discarded phones can be forwarded free of charge to Spain by simply printing a pre-paid postage stamp label available on the website. Movilbak-Eurekamovil, a company, will later transfer the phone’s official recycled value to the JGI.
According to a Ditendia Mobile report, since 2016, there are more cell phones than inhabitants on Earth. “There are, on an average, 3.2 connected mobiles per person. Of this, only a tenth are recycled,” the organisation said.
An “obsession with technological updating”, nurtured among consumers, is resulting into people changing phones every 30 months, regardless of the fact that a cellphone’s life cycle can last up to seven years, it said.
The JGI was set up in 1977 by English primatologist Jane Goodall.